Maidenhead RFC made to work hard for their first win of the season

Maidenhead 16, Tunbridge Wells 10

They were made to work hard for it, but Maidenhead finally have their first win on the board in the London & South East Premier after Tunbridge Wells were beaten 16-10 in horrendous conditions at Braywick Park.

The weather couldn't have been much worse, making free-flowing rugby difficult for both sides, but credit to them they gave it a good go, even if, often, this led to a knock on or misplaced passes.

This was never going to be a try fest, with the teams sharing just one each, but Ed Keohane kicked the penalties and conversions to turn around a 10-6 deficit at half-time to help Maids win the match 16-10.

Mark Darlington's try just before the hour mark was also a game-changing moment. The prop-forward barged his way over from a couple of yards out, after Maids had broken well from deep in their own half. Keohane slotted a tricky conversion in swirling winds to put Maids 13-10 ahead and the team dug in during the final quarter to preserve their slender advantage.

Up until then it had been a case of so near yet so far for the home side, who appeared to tense up, and try to force the issue, whenever they got close to the Tunbridge try line.

It didn't take long for them to forge ahead on the scoreboard, with Keohane striking a penalty just inside the posts to make it 3-0 after only a couple of minutes.

The centre was increasingly influential as the match wore on and tore through the Tunbridge defences in the 10th minute to create a chance for Jack Hill to go over by the posts, but the ball spilled from his clutches and bounced forward, much to the frustration and disbelief of the supporters in the grandstand.

Maids have played well in spells this season and started well in this one, but they've been punished for failing to take their chances and it looked like this game was going down a similar route when Tunbridge put a clever little kick over the Maids back line and caught them on the half turn. Finlay White, who watched the ball all the way was alert to it and picked up to run in and touch down under the posts. Luke Giles slotted the fairly simple conversion to make it 7-3 to the visitors.

As if to illustrate the blustery conditions, Keohane had a penalty chance to get Maids back to within a point, but his kick - which was on target - got held up in the wind and fell five metres short.

On the half-hour Maids had another chance to spread the ball wide and go for the corner, however, the ball was dropped and knocked forward when a try looked to be in the offing.

Fortunately, Tunbridge was penalised for an infringement in the build-up and Keohane swept the ball over to make it 6-7. Tunbridge had a spell of territory just before the interval but, just when it appeared Maids' defence had held firm, the visitors were awarded a penalty which Giles knocked over to re-establish their four-point lead.

Both sides continued to commit to playing open rugby in the second half but, with the wind at their backs, Maidenhead began to gain the upper hand. A couple of half chances were spurned by handling errors, but Darlington grabbed the all-important try, muscling his way over after the hosts had been held up just short on several occasions. More importantly, it gave Maids a lead to defend which, given their start to the season, they were determined to do.

To their credit, Tunbridge came back at them again, but time and time again they were forced into errors and infringements by suffocating nature of Maidenhead's defence.

On one occasion a Tunbridge player was tackled, lifted, and carried back 15m before being dumped to the turf.

It was a tackle that seemed to illustrate just how much Maidenhead wanted to win the game, while Conor Graney put in another massive hit close to his own line to force a knock on from the visitors.

There was some respite for the home side, and Keohane made the points just about safe when he slotted a third penalty minutes before the end. There was still time for a late twist, and Tunbridge did their best to apply it, but Maids' defence stood strong as they came under the pump in the dying seconds.

Victory lifts Maids to 12th in the table on five points ahead of their trip to Westcombe Park on October 23.

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